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Alessandro Carrera is Moores Professor of Italian Studies and World Cultures and Literatures at the University of Houston, Texas. He has published extensively in the fields of Continental Philosophy, Italian and Comparative Literature, Art, Cinema, and Music (classical and popular). He is the author of La voce di Bob Dylan (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2001, 2011, 2021) and three other short books on Dylan. He has translated the songs and prose of Bob Dylan into Italian, all published by Feltrinelli: Chronicles Vol. 1 (2005), Tarantula (2007), Lyrics in various annotated editions, the most recent in three volumes: Lyrics 1961-1968, Lyrics 1969-1982, Lyrics 1983-2020 (published in 2021). 

Sarah Gates is the Craig Professor of English at St. Lawrence University, where she teaches British literature of all periods, poetry, and songwriting.  She has published on Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Tennyson, Joni Mitchell, and most recently, Louise Erdrich.  She is also a musician with the local indie-rock band Bee Children.

Michael Gray is an independent scholar who pioneered the serious study of Dylan’s work with Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, 1972. His books include the massively updated Song & Dance Man III(1999), The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia(2006), Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell (2007), and Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021. He has delivered guest lectures in Europe and North America, including at Stanford, California and Bath Literature Festival. His website is www.michaelgray.net

Timothy Hampton is professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also directs the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities. He has written widely on literature and culture, across several languages and centuries.  He is the author of Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work (Zone Books, 2019). A recent article is “Bob Dylan in the Country: Rock Domesticity and Pastoral Song” (Representations, 152, fall 2020). A new study, Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History will be published in 2022 by Zone Books.  He writes about literature, music, and education at www.timothyhampton.org.

John Hughes‘s writings on Dylan include Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s (Taylor & Francis, 2013). He is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Gloucestershire and has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and philosophy, particularly Thomas Hardy and William Wordsworth. 

Jeffrey S. Lamp is Professor of New Testament and Instructor of Environmental Science at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma. His primary research and publishing interests are in the field of ecotheology. He has authored five books and co-edited one. He was a translator and editor for the Modern English Version of the Bible (Passio/Charisma House). He is a frequent presenter at academic conferences, has published articles in several journals, dictionaries, and volumes of collected essays, and is the editor of Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology.

Michele Ulisse Lipparini, born in Milano where he’s based, is an independent scholar who started listening to Bob Dylan in 1988 at age 16. Digging into Dylan’s songs pushed him into learning English, which led him to work as a translator and eventually to collaborate for a few years with Delfina Vezzoli, Italian translator of Don DeLillo’s masterpiece Underworld. In addition to completing Vezzoli’s translation of John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers, Lipparini has translated graphic novels and published articles about Bob Dylan in magazines such as Isis, Buscadero and on various websites, and contributed consistently to Olof Bjorner’s website, www.bjorner.com. He also held a conference about the Nobel Laureate as part of the Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna Poetry Festival in 2015. He has attended 170 Bob Dylan concerts all over the world.

Anne Marie Mai is professor of literature and a chair of DIAS at The University of Southern Denmark. She has published more than 200 articles, book chapters and monographs. She nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize, which he won in 2016. She has published Bob Dylan. The Poet (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2018, German translation will be published 2021), she edited the anthology New Approaches to Bob Dylan (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2019) and contributed to The World of Bob Dylan (ed. Sean Latham, Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Andrew Muir current commitments include teaching language and literature at The Leys School, Cambridge, UK and delivering Shakespeare and Dylan talks at a variety of conferences. Dylan publications: Razor’s Edge (2001), One More Night (21013), Troubadour (2003). An examination of historical and contemporary outdoor Shakespeare performances: Shakespeare in Cambridge followed, in 2015. This led to a comparative study, Bob Dylan and William Shakespeare: The True Performing of It, (2nd edition 2021).

Jacqueline Osherow is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently My Lookalike at the Krishna Temple (LSU Press, 2019). She’s received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the Witter Bynner Prize. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, journals and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, the Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry, Best American Poetry, The Norton Anthology of Jewish American Literature, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Twentieth Century American Poetry, and The Making of a Poem. She’s Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah. 

Allesandro Portelli has taught American Literature in the universities of Rome “La Sapienza” and Siena. He has served as advisor on democratic historical memory to the Mayor of Rome and founded the Circolo Gianni Bosio for the critical study and historical presence of people’s culture, folk music, and oral history. He is the author of many books on literature, popular culture, working-class history, including The Order Has Been Carried OutThey Say in Harlan Dean County; The Death of Luigi Trastulli. Form and Meaning in Oral History.

Christopher Rollason: M.A. in English, Trinity College, Cambridge. Doctorate in English, University of York. Author of numerous published articles, lectures and conference papers on Bob Dylan. Attended international Dylan conferences held in Caen (France), 2005 and Tulsa (Oklahoma), 2019.

Jim Salvucci, since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, has served as an English professor, dean, and vice president at several institutions of higher education. For many years he taught an advanced course in Bob Dylan studies, and he continues to blog, present, and publish on Bob Dylan. Currently he lives in Newburgh, NY, and serves as a management consultant to nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations. He can be found online at jimsalvucci.com.

John H. Serembus, PhD., is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Widener University. In his forty-plus years in the classroom, he has taught a wide variety of courses, but mainly those in Logic (both formal and informal), Critical Thinking, Ethics, and Values.

David Thurmaier is Associate Professor of Music Theory and Chair of the Music Studies Division at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory. His research focuses on the music of Charles Ives, as well as the Beatles. He has published book chapters on George Harrison’s connections to popular music, John Lennon’s political music, and has a forthcoming chapter on Paul McCartney’s use of pastiche. In 2019, he presented a paper examining the musical relationship between Harrison and Bob Dylan at the “World of Bob Dylan” conference in Tulsa. He also co-hosts two podcasts: “I’ve Got a Beatles Podcast,” and “Hearing the Pulitzers.”

FORUM CONTRIBUTION BY Andrew Muir, The Leys School, Cambridge, UK

Is turning 80 any more a “significant juncture” than turning 79 or 81? No, it is not. Nevertheless, people are in thrall to the “0,” and thus we attribute spurious significance to it. In doing so, we grant ourselves an opportunity to pause and reflect. Here, I add to that impulse by taking stock of Dylan’s life and times and applauding his unparalleled achievements.

There have been other significant 0’s for Dylan. Back in 1971, Schulz’s Peanuts cartoon strip ran the following exchange: “Bob Dylan will be thirty years old this month.” “That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.” A simple exchange that, characteristically, contained much of import. It was saying goodbye to the perceived “golden age” of the 1960s. Dylan’s name was synonymous with that decade to such a degree — a seemingly unbreakable connection still haunts him to this day — that this cartoon poignantly portrayed children acknowledging the passing of naïve, youthful dreams. 

Twenty years later, Dylan reached 50 to an outpouring of acclaim for his work at a time when his stock had been at an unusually low ebb. There was also a new “birth” on this “special” birthday, that of The Bootleg Series. That first set was a collection of immense artistic value and, yes, “significance,” both in itself and for all the releases in the series it kick-started. 

Now Dylan is 80, yet another generally accepted “milestone year” and one that encourages reflection on the life so far lived. Bob Dylan’s has so far encompassed the reigns of the following presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt / Harry S. Truman / Dwight D. Eisenhower / John F. Kennedy / Lyndon B. Johnson / Richard Nixon / Gerald Ford / Jimmy Carter / Ronald Reagan / George H. W. Bush / Bill Clinton / George W. Bush / Barack Obama / Donald Trump / Joe Biden. That is quite a list, and “significance” can be attributed merely to having lived through so many, especially from an American perspective, with the country itself being so young. At 80, Dylan has been alive for almost a third of the USA’s history. That is an astounding concept from my outsider’s perspective; living, as I do, in a city with a university over 800 years old. Furthermore, although Dylan’s significance and influence are global, he is first and foremost an American artist, and he has been the country’s pre-eminent artist for approximately a quarter of its existence. 

Such scopes of time are difficult to keep in perspective. Here is a framework to help in that regard, especially for younger readers unburdened by the unstoppable passing of decades. Even restricting ourselves to Dylan’s professional life, his 1961 concert in New York stands midway between today and 1901, a year which began with Victoria on the British throne and McKinley, assassinated that September, as detailed at the beginning of “Key West,” as President of the US. If you extend the same contextual concept to Dylan’s life, then his year of birth, most aptly, especially considering his twenty-first-century output, stands midway between today and 1861, the year the US Civil War began.  

Lifespan aside, it is the work itself that matters and wherein lies Dylan’s mighty “significance.” There is no need to list his extraordinary achievements in a publication such as this. To name but one, Dylan taught us that popular music could express anything and everything about the world and human existence. It could ask and answer the question “how does it feel” by conveying the reality of living in these times and how we can (try to) transcend our time-bound, mortality-conscious condition. “Not bad for starters,” as they say, and, as we know, there is so much more besides. It would take very many volumes to cover all of Bob Dylan’s significant achievements; many have been written, and very many more are heralding this particular birthday. The surface is being scratched; decades of further studies lie ahead.

Dylan’s influence on others is another “significance”; not just his towering presence in nearly all popular music fields but also on other artists from varied disciplines. Such as novelists (e.g. Rushdie, Ishiguro), actors (e.g. Nighy and Rylance), and poets, including Maya Angelou, another of “America’s great voices of freedom,” as Jack Nicholson said of Dylan. Angelou is another artist who was still creating new work into her eighties. She once claimed that “Shakespeare must be a Black girl,” and she has also referred to Dylan in eye-catching phrases. Her words, a fitting place to finish this humble note on the occasion of Dylan’s 80th, came ten years ago, celebrating yet another “0” ending, Bob’s 70th birthday:

The truth is, Bob Dylan is a great American artist. His art, his talent is to speak to everyone, and when I say American, I think he’s a great African American artist, he’s a great Judeo-American artist, he’s a great Muslim American artist, he is a great Asian American artist, Spanish-speaking artist — he speaks for the American soul as much as does Ray Charles.

That mention of Ray Charles resonates “significantly” as I type this, with recent events in “Georgia, on my mind.” Angelou concluded her prescient remarks with these soberingly apt words for the situation we find ourselves in a decade later (italics mine):

There was a time when Bob Dylan was the new boy in the neighborhood. . . . When Bob came everyone loved him because he was what we all intended; he spoke for all of us. . . . He supported the people and the spirit of being American — to know that the mountains, the streams and the voting booths belong to us all at all times.